A Descriptive Analysis of the Types, Targets, and Relative Frequency of Aggression in Mainstream Pornography

Arch Sex Behav. 2020 Nov;49(8):3041-3053. doi: 10.1007/s10508-020-01773-0. Epub 2020 Jul 13.


For decades, scholars and public health officials have been concerned with the depictions of sexual aggression in pornography, especially when acts of aggression are depicted with no consequences. Social cognitive theory suggests behaviors that are rewarded are more likely to be learned by consumers while those punished are less likely to be learned. To date, however, there has not been a large-scale content analysis to provide researchers with the baseline knowledge of the amount of sexual aggression in online pornography nor have previous content analyses examined the reactions of the targets of sexual aggression. This study of 4009 heterosexual scenes from two major free pornographic tube sites (Pornhub and Xvideos) sought to provide this baseline. Overall, 45% of Pornhub scenes included at least one act of physical aggression, while 35% of scenes from Xvideos contained aggression. Spanking, gagging, slapping, hair pulling, and choking were the five most common forms of physical aggression. Women were the target of the aggression in 97% of the scenes, and their response to aggression was either neutral or positive and rarely negative. Men were the perpetrators of aggression against women in 76% of scenes. Finally, examining the 10 most populous categories, the Amateur and Teen categories in Xvideos and the Amateur category in Pornhub had significantly less aggression, while the Xvideos Hardcore category had significantly more physical aggression against women. This study suggests aggression is common against women in online pornography, while repercussions to this aggression are rarely portrayed.

Keywords: Content analysis; Pornhub; Pornography; Sexual aggression; Social cognitive theory; Violence against women.

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / psychology*
  • Erotica / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*